10/05/2012 03:10 EDT | Updated 12/05/2012 05:12 EST

Dispatches From Down East: My Motherly Instincts Paid Off


A new study out of the University of Texas has found that mild and moderate asthma sufferers may not need daily puffs from their inhalers any longer.

The study compared three groups of asthmatics, with one group using their inhaler medication only when symptoms occurred -- not on a regular basis, as has been the normal doctor's recommendation for the past two decades. And I for one am breathing easier after confirmation that I was on the right track with this one all along. Maybe a mother's instincts are a credible decision-making force after all.

Six years ago, my son had his first acute asthma attack following a night out on the town. It was a chilly Halloween that particular year, and the cool temperatures were enough to trigger an asthma attack in my precocious kindergartener. I had dressed him up as a police officer, but the tough-guy costume could not keep him from showing his vulnerability. He landed in the hospital the very next morning for a 48-hour stay.

At the time, I was a scared and oblivious mother. Although I understood that extensive coughing was not okay, I did not realize how serious asthma can be, nor did I easily recognize the signs: broncho-spasms, the tightening of airway muscles, severe wheezing, shortness of breath, tightening in the neck muscles, panic and anxiety, among other scary asthma attack indicators. When I took him in to the local clinic and saw the prompt response of the physician on call to admit him, I began to realize that I not only had a very sick boy on my hands, I also had a lot to learn. And I needed to find a way to help my son cope with this chronic illness.

Over the six years since that first hospital stay, my son has had regular appointments with his pediatrician, attended asthma clinics and we as a family have participated in an air quality control study so as to ensure that our home is a safe place in which to live, sleep and breathe. We have no pets, no carpet and no wood stored inside the home. Neither my husband nor I smoke. We both feel we have done the best we can to look after our child. And part of that decision-making process was a choice to quietly ignore our pediatrician's recommendation that our son use puffers on a year-round basis.

We did not purposefully set out to be renegades in this murky business known as parenting. I am not a prototype mama rebel. Nor do I wish to bite the hand that feeds me. But I have been up-front with our son's pediatrician regarding his medication usage during his yearly check-ups, so that this doctor was aware that we were not following her game plan to a T. However, what I wish I had been able to do over the years was more assertively express my discomfort with the over-usage of asthma medications which I as a parent felt were at times unnecessary. And I wish I had not felt so apologetic for failing to follow the doctor's orders to do what I believed was over-medicating my son's asthma through unnecessary year-round usage.

I was almost ashamed at times for being, dare I say it, a "negligent parent." Even though I felt that by using puffers year round would inevitably introduce my child to a potential delivery system of unwanted secondary medical conditions that may or may not naturally occur if he was not using those same puffers. Those being poor growth- which was brought up to me by the pediatrician- along with decreased bone density and easy bruising, among other more harmful side effects.

From the start, I followed my gut and said no to year-round puffer usage and yes to inhaled steroids only when asthma flares up. I guess that puts our son six years ahead of the study.

Parents must certainly be given opportunity to understand the ramifications of the all-important decisions made on behalf of their children. Whether these are decisions regarding academic and mental development, spiritual growth or physical well-being, parents need to know that they have a say and a choice. And their choice concerning these matters counts. Through collaboration with the proverbial "village" that helps raise our children -- those professionals including teachers, nurses, doctors, child-care givers and extended family -- mature, sensible parents can responsibly make choices in the best interest of their children.

Not every child is so fortunate to have a support system in place made up of parents, extended family and professionals that acts to guarantee their health and well being. This goes without saying. Nevertheless, while it does take a village to raise a child, quite often it is mother and father who really know best.